Roma (Italy). On 27 July 2023, the Rector Major of the Salesians of Don Bosco, Fr Ángel Fernández Artime, Father and Center of Unity of the Salesian Family, at the conclusion of the summer plenary session of the General Council, announced the theme and guidelines of the Strenna for the year 2024, 200 years after the dream that Giovannino Bosco – the future Don Bosco – had in 1824 at the age of nine:
“The dream that makes you dream.” A heart that transforms “wolves” into “lambs”
“I believe that the 200th anniversary of the dream which “conditioned Don Bosco’s whole way of living and thinking. And in particular, the way of feeling the presence of God in the life of each one and in the history of the world” (cf. P. STELLA, Don Bosco in the history of Catholic religiosity), deserves to be placed at the center of the Strenna, which will guide the pastoral educational year of the whole Salesian Family”, explains the Rector Major, thanking a group of confreres and the World Council of the Salesian Family for their contribution to the reflection.
In the presentation of the dream that would “mark” Don Bosco – “A dream that would leave an indelible mark on him, the meaning of which he fully understood only at the end of his life!” – Fr. Ángel refers, among the various narrations, to the version that the Saint tells Don Barberis in the year 1875, in the maturity phase of his life, when he was already sixty years old:
“At that time, Don Bosco had witnessed the birth of the Salesian Congregation (18 December 1859), of the Archconfraternity of Mary Help of Christians (18 April 1869), of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (5 August 1872), and of the Pious Society of Salesian Cooperators – according to the original name given by Don Bosco – approved on 9 May 1876″.
Don Bosco himself, at the beginning of the manuscript, explains the usefulness of the story, “It will normally serve to overcome future difficulties, drawing lessons from the past. It will serve to make known how God Himself has guided everything at all times. It will serve as a pleasant entertainment for my children, when they will be able to read the things their father took part in, and they will read them much more willingly when, called by God to give an account of my actions, I will no longer be among them”.
The Rector Major therefore invites the Salesian Family to “take advantage of this bicentenary year of the dream to study and deepen the Memoirs of the Oratory and the dream at nine years.” He does so with profound conviction, aware that “in this area of Salesianity, of our history, and of the foundations of our charism, we run the risk of concentrating and always stopping only on some very simplified commonplaces, and of repeating a few generic statements.” Thus, he expresses the need to offer a more consistent reflection “on the Salesian Family in the world, on many lay people and young people, boys and girls”.
A dream that makes you dream
The dream at 9 years contains the vocational project given to Don Bosco and the re-reading of his life, “grasping the ways in which the Lord has been and is its protagonist.” However, says Fr. Ángel “this dream has to do with today, with the dreams of the Salesians, his children, of the whole Salesian Family and above all of the young. In this sense, the dream continues to make us dream and to invite us to think about who we are and who we are for today.”
The Rector Major ends this first draft of the commentary on the Strenna by emphasizing the importance of others “to build ourselves and our dream” and the need to trust and entrust ourselves, confidently handing ourselves over to the guidance of Mary, who in the dream is defined as “the Teacher”. “This of course presupposes that there are wise and evangelically inspired leaders on whom we can rely. In this too we have been entrusted with a wonderful task”.